In Judaism, is perpetual virginity or remaining unmarried a higher state of life than marriage?

  • 2
    possible dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/61433/759 (or maybe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16091/759)
    – Double AA
    Sep 27, 2017 at 18:21
  • 2
    This question could be improved by adding information about its motivation. What made you think to ask this question? Why would you think one way or the other?
    – Daniel
    Sep 27, 2017 at 18:26
  • 1
    @DoubleAA not exactly a dupe, but it's clear from those questions what the answer to this one is... Sep 27, 2017 at 18:26
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    Definitely not. See Yiftach and his daughter Sep 27, 2017 at 20:04
  • 1
    @sabbahillel Having just gone through Shoftim, the story of Yiftach's daughter is subject to a number of interpretations, only one of which is relevant here. And the response to the incident there may well be related to the Pyrrhic resolution of his oath rather than a commentary on the state of his daughter. Sep 27, 2017 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


The answer is definitely NO. There are a number of reasons.

Since Yom Kippur is coming up, it is appropriate to point out that the Kohen Gadol is required to be married in order to perform the service. In fact an alternate was chosen for him to marry in case his wife passed away before Yom Kippur. Note that the lack of a wife is considered a defect (a mum) that disqualifies the Kohen Gadol from performing the Yom Kippur service and entering the Kadosh Kedoshim.

Why a Cohen Gadol has to be married?

We learn from the Torah that a Kohen Gadol must be married from the pasuk (verse) וְהִקְרִיב אַהֲרֹן אֶת פַּר הַחַטָּאת אֲשֶׁר לוֹ וְכִפֶּר בַּעֲדוֹ וּבְעַד בֵּיתוֹ. That can be found in the book of Vayikra – Leviticus – Chapter 16/6 (Parashat Acharei)

The translation of the verse is: “And Aaron shall bring his sin offering bull, and initiate atonement for himself and for his household.” – household is referring to his wife.

The Zohar explains that a man that is not married is considered half a man (Or half a body פלגא גופא) making him defective or better said, that he has a blemish. A Cohen that has a blemish (what is called in Hebrew moom מום) can not offer any sacrifices in the temple.

We learn this rule from the verse: אִישׁ מִזַּרְעֲךָ לְדֹרֹתָם אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בוֹ מוּם לֹא יִקְרַב לְהַקְרִיב לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו -ויקרא כא יז

Translation: “Speak to Aaron, saying: Any man among your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect, shall not come near to offer up his God’s food.” Vayikra – Leviticus – Chapter 21/17

Therefore, in order for the Kohen Gadol to offer sacrifices, he must be married in order not to be invalid or disqualified for the service. You can find much more about this in the Zohar (Parashat Vayikra 5 page 2).

One example is from Bereishis 2:24

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

As it says in Shulchan Oruch Even Haezer 1.1

סעיף א

חייב כל אדם לישא אשה כדי לפרות ולרבות וכל מי שאינו עוסק בפריה ורביה כאילו שופך דמים וממעט את הדמות וגורם לשכינה שתסתלק מישראל:

הגה: וכל מי שאין לו אשה שרוי בלא ברכה בלא תורה כו' ולא נקרא אדם וכיון שנשא אשה עונותיו מפקפקים שנאמר מצא אשה מצא טוב ויפק רצון מאת ה'


And indeed in 1:8, one should marry even if he already has had children.

סעיף ח

אע"פ שקיים פריה ורביה אסור לו לעמוד בלא אשה וצריך שישא אשה בת בנים אם יש ספק בידו אפילו יש לו כמה בנים ואם אין ספק בידו לישא אשה בת בנים אא"כ ימכור ס"ת אם אין לו בנים ימכור כדי שישא אשה בת בנים אבל אם יש לו בנים לא ימכור אלא ישא אשה שאינה בת בנים ולא יעמוד בלא אשה וי"א שאפילו אם יש לו בנים ימכור ס"ת כדי שישא אשה בת בנים:

הגה מיהו אם מכיר שאינו בן בנים עוד ואינו ראוי עוד להוליד ישא אשה שאינה בת בנים (נ"י בפ' הבא על יבמתו) וכן אם יש לו בנים הרבה ומתיירא

שאם ישא אשה בת בנים יבאו קטטות ומריבות בין הבנים ובין אשתו מותר לישא אשה שאינה בת בנים אבל אסור לישב בלא אשה משום חשש זו (ת"ה סי' רפ"ג):

Daily Halacha points out that it is preferred that the shaliach tzibbur be married.

May a congregation appoint an unmarried man to serve as the Chazan?

This question is addressed in the work Orchot Chayim (by Rabbi Aharon Hakohen of Lunel, France-Spain, 1280-1330), who records the practice to appoint only married men to serve as Chazan. This practice is based on the Halacha requiring that a Kohen Gadol be married. Since a Chazan petitions God for forgiveness on behalf of the people like the Kohen Gadol, he, too, must be married so that he is free from sinful thoughts.

Accordingly, the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserless, Poland, 1525-1572), in his glosses to the laws of Rosh Hashanah (581:1), writes that a congregation should preferably select somebody who is married to serve as Chazan. He adds, however, that this is but a preference; strictly speaking, anybody accepted by the congregation is suitable for the role of Chazan. Furthermore, the Mishna Berura (by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, or the "Chafetz Chayim," Lithuania, 1835-1933) rules that an unmarried man who is God-fearing and studies Torah takes precedence over a married man who is ignorant of Torah. The preference for a married individual applies only if both candidates are God-fearing, committed Jews; if, however, only one of the two candidates has these credentials, then he takes precedence even if he is unmarried and the other candidate is married.

It should be emphasized that this preference for a married man over an unmarried man applies all year round, and not only on the High Holidays.

  • 1
    Not being married is definitely not a disqualifying Mum. It just means he can't bring the Yom Kippur offerings due to a technicality in the atonement process, but he can bring offerings any other day of the year so he clearly doesn't have a real Mum (and there's no such thing as a Mum that only applies on certain days)
    – Double AA
    Sep 27, 2017 at 22:52
  • Saying that a married man is more likely free from sinful thoughts is really just a side point that doesn't address the question. The question of which is a higher state all else being equal is still there.
    – Double AA
    Sep 27, 2017 at 22:55
  • @doubleaa The thought part means that a married man is on a higher level all else being equal Sep 27, 2017 at 23:01
  • I don't think you know what that phrase means.... Someone's other sins are not fundamentally related to their level due to marriage
    – Double AA
    Sep 27, 2017 at 23:03
  • Several Hebrew rows end in four or more spaces, leading to significant display errors in (older) browsers. The (not so) simple solution would be, of course, to delete said spaces; unfortunately, when one attempts to do so, certain Hebrew words from within those paragraphs are then displayed out of order. The solution to this secondary bug would then be to delete the rows altogether, and reinsert them, carefully, without the aforementioned extra spaces at the end; however, I myself cannot do that, since I have no idea what they are, or where to find them: which is why I am leaving this comment.
    – user18041
    Sep 9, 2020 at 20:10

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